Stalkers have been a popular subject of thriller and horror films for many years. The fear of being followed by someone makes a great story for the genre. When we put ourselves in places we’re not quite familiar with, we can often feel like the whole world is staring at us. We feel like the odd one out; like we don’t belong. And because of these feelings, we can start to believe someone is following us.
That is exactly how Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) feels. She’s new to the fast paced world of New York City, with only her free-spirited best friend Erica (Maika Monroe) for guidance. So, because of how and where she was raised, she doesn’t hesitate to return a lost handbag she found on the subway. The owner of the bag is Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert), an elderly woman with an affinity for piano.
Frances finds something comforting about Greta’s motherly personality, and soon the two form a true friendship. That is until Frances makes a strange discovery. In one cabinet, she discovers several of the same handbag. She comes to realize that their encounter wasn’t so coincidental. She wants nothing more to do with Greta, but she quickly realizes that getting rid of her isn’t as easy as it sounds, as Greta soon puts to work a waking nightmare for Frances.
It’s not like there are many new places to take the stalker sub-genre. There’s only so much you can do with the story of a person getting stalked by another. All kinds of twists have been done to try and reinvent the concept, to the point where there isn’t really much else to dive into. Believe it or not, you can get to the point where a certain sub-genre has been played out so many times that there’s literally nothing else to cover.
And Greta, from director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with A Vampire, and Mona Lisa) falls into this category. Despite being fun and thrilling overall, the film never covers anything we haven’t already scene from this genre. There are times where you feel like something new could appear, but then the movie gets right back on the basic path and follows a formula we’ve seen in many other stalker movies. That ends up being somewhat of a disappointment because you can see where things could’ve have gone, and the film itself chooses not to go that route.
That being said, Greta is still a fun time because of its B-movie nature. It may have a dark and serious nature, but very little of this film can be taken seriously. There are moments where the movie goes to some very ridiculous levels; almost to the point where it was more hilarious than scary. However, this is what made the film so entertaining. It reached levels of dumb fun that made the overall experience more fun than dumb.
Despite the present campiness of the tone, there are some legitimately thrilling moments. This is mostly due to the expertly crafted set pieces and stylish directing, which captured the claustrophobic nature of New York. This helps to elevate the pressure Moretz’s character is feeling due to the presence of Greta. This also helps the audience feel just as claustrophobic as she does, and makes for some genuinely uncomfortable moments.
The film is further saved by the pitch perfect performance of Isabelle Huppert, who continues to make a strong case for her Oscar nomination back in 2016. There isn’t any other actress who could have played the role of Greta as well as she did. She perfectly embodies what makes up the character. From her youthful psychotic movements to her unstable mental state, Huppert perfectly captures what makes the film’s truly unsettling psychopath.
Chloë Grace Moretz also gives a strong performance. We don’t see her in many movies nowadays, at least not in any big ones. Her recent endeavors consist of a lot of independent movies by relatively unknown filmmakers. She doesn’t appear to be making the transition from child acting to adult acting very well. However, she still kills it in the roles (for the most part), so to see her in a starring role is kind of a treat. In this film, she shows off some of the best qualities in her acting abilities. Like Huppert, she displays the exact qualities for the character of Frances.
Greta fully relies on a formula we’ve many times before, and chooses a more campy execution to carry out said familiar storyline. But thanks to Jordan’s stylish direction and Huppert’s impressive lead performance, the film is elevated from a predictable time-waster to a dumb but very entertaining B-movie. If you’re willing a except the reliance on the clichés, then you might find some fun in this solid, if unoriginal, new addition to the stalker sub-genre of horror.